Intermittent fasting is a health topic that has risen to popularity for yielding amazing results in those who stick to its rigid regimens. What exactly is intermittent fasting? To put it simply, it is an eating schedule in which you cycle between periods of consumption and periods of avoiding food and drink. Discover some of the ways you can benefit from this technique.
Is Ramadan Considered Intermittent Fasting?
Dr. Ayse Mindikoglu, associate professor of gastroenterology, hepatology, and abdominal transplantation at Baylor College of Medicine and gastroenterologist at Baylor St. Luke Medical Center, has researched and found several crucial benefits associated with dawn-to-sunset fasting.
In a recent study, Dr. Mindikoglu followed 14 participants who observed the month of Ramadan, which involves no eating or drinking for at least 14 hours each day for 30 consecutive days.
Each subject would eat breakfast before dawn, eat dinner after dusk, and fast in between. Blood samples from each participant were taken before and after this 30-day period and underwent proteomic profiling. Results from this profiling suggest intermittent fasting can improve one’s health in several important ways.
“We are finding protein signatures that could have protective properties against a number of illnesses.”
- Dr. Ayse Mindikoglu
Can Intermittent Fasting Help Me Lose Weight?
There are already well-known weight-loss benefits for intermittent fasting, especially when we discuss its ability to help one eat fewer meals and fewer calories per day. However, one discovery made when studying each participant’s blood sample was the increase in proteins tropomyosin (TPM) 1, 3, and 4. While TPM is known for its role in regulating heart contractions, it is also important in repairing and protecting cells that are important to insulin resistance.
This is especially true for TPM 3, which is vital in improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Better insulin sensitivity can mean better blood sugar control, which improves the body’s ability to prevent adverse effects of a diet rich in fats and sugar. Ultimately, this is one of the results of intermittent fasting that can lead to improvements in weight management and weight loss.
“Feeding and fasting can significantly impact how the body makes and uses proteins that are critical to decreasing insulin resistance and maintaining a healthy body weight,” said Dr. Mindikoglu. “Therefore, the timing of and duration between meals could be important factors to consider for people struggling with obesity-related conditions.”
Other known results from short-term fasting that can contribute to weight loss include higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which increase the breakdown of body fat.
Can Intermittent Fasting Help Fight Cancer?
A disrupted circadian rhythm, whether caused by jet lag, night-shift work, or exposure to artificial light at night, is known to be a cause of metabolic syndrome and related cancers. Dr. Mindikoglu’s study found that fasting from dawn until dusk can help to reset one’s circadian rhythm and ultimately have the potential to prevent or treat diseases associated with circadian disruption.
Dr. Mindikoglu’s findings after the fasting period included much higher levels of proteins that can suppress tumors, as well as DNA repair gene protein products. The participants’ blood also had a significant reduction in the levels of protein products known to promote tumor growth.
Autophagy, the “waste removal” process that cells use to break down and dispose of damaged and dysfunctional proteins, is another way intermittent fasting could prevent cancer. Results suggest autophagy increases during one’s fasting period and decreases once a person eats. Autophagy has also been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Can Intermittent Fasting Improve Brain Health?
In addition to its ability to promote autophagy, intermittent fasting also improves a range of metabolic functions important to the brain by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood sugar levels.
Intermittent fasting’s ability to improve inflammation demonstrates its potential to help improve several brain conditions. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many brain disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
While the sample size is small and the results are preliminary, Dr. Mindikoglu states that this study and its findings are very promising.
“Our study looked at a small number of people during a set time frame, so lasting effects of these results are not yet known,” said Dr. Mindikoglu. “There are also other questions about how often someone fasts or how diet might affect the findings. Despite that, our results, even at this stage, are significant. It could potentially have implications on a number of debilitating diseases and disorders, and this shows us that we are heading in the right direction as we continue our research.”
Looking for more ways to take control of your health? Schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group gastroenterologist to discuss diet plans that you can easily implement into your life.
Insider | There's more evidence that fasting may make you healthier, and it comes from studying Ramadan observers
Houston Chronicle | Can Ramadan fasting hold the key to improved health? A Houston doctor aims to find out.
Baylor College of Medicine | Dawn-to-sunset fasting could help those suffering from metabolic syndrome
Baylor College of Medicine | Dawn-to-sunset fasting associated with anti-cancer proteins
Baylor College of Medicine | It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat that can affect your health
Elsevier | The effect of four-week intermittent fasting from dawn to sunset on circulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in subjects with metabolic syndrome and healthy subjects
Elsevier | Intermittent fasting from dawn to sunset for 30 consecutive days is associated with anticancer proteomic signature and upregulates key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism, circadian clock, DNA repair, cytoskeleton remodeling, immune system and cognitive function in healthy subjects
Medical News Today | How fasting may prevent obesity-related insulin resistance
NCBI | Intermittent fasting from dawn to sunset for four consecutive weeks induces anticancer serum proteome response and improves metabolic syndrome